New laws to encourage worker co-operatives in Rhode Island

State government representatives have been working with pressure groups to remove legal barriers to setting up worker-owned ventures

New state legislation designed to ease the process of setting up worker co-ops has been introduced in Rhode Island, USA.

Senator Donna Nesselbush (Democrat, Pawtucket, North Providence) and Representative Robert Craven (Democrat, North Kingstown) have introduced House Bill 6001 and Senate Bill 676 to streamline the start-up process.

The changes are designed to eliminate the need for complex legal work which has created a barrier to people looking to form their own co-ops.

Rhode Island secretary of state Nellie Gorbea worked with lawyers’ group Center for Justice, worker rights group Fuerza Laboral and RI Jobs with Justice to come up with a new legal structure for worker co-ops.

“Worker co-ops allow businesses to be more than money-making enterprises,” said Liz McDonnell, worker-owner at the Fortnight Wine Bar co-op.

Speaking to the website Rhode Island Future, she added: “When workers are owners and owners are workers, everyone is invested in the day-to-day and the long-term goals of the business.

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“This permits the business to be more responsive to its community, making it a great place to live, work, and visit. I’m excited to give the worker co-operative model the legitimacy and clarity of its own enabling law.”

She added” “Co-operatives are part of the solution to the problem of working in a capitalist economy.

“They allow workers to be reconnected to the product of their labor, to be invested to their work and recognised for the work that they do.”

Organisations supporting the legislation include the Sierra Club, the Environmental Justice League, 3rd Sector New England, Farm Fresh RI, Access Consulting, Fortnight Wine Bar, Healthy Planet, Worcester Roots and the Economic Progress Institute.

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